New research has found that previously healthy gut bacteria can become diseased by common artificial sweeteners and enter the gut wall, and can cause serious health issues. It is published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences, is the 1st to find the pathogenic effects of some of the most widely used artificial sweeteners (aspartame, sucralose, saccharin) on two types of gut bacteria, E. faecalis and E. coli.
According to previous studies, artificial sweeteners can change the type and number of bacteria in the gut. Still, this new molecular research, done by academics from Anglia Ruskin University, has found that sweeteners can also make the bacteria pathogenic. These pathogenic bacteria can attach themselves to kill and invade Caco-2 cells, which are epithelial cells that line the intestine wall.
It is already found that bacteria such as E. faecalis, if they cross the intestinal wall, can enter the bloodstream and gathers in the spleen, liver, and lymph nodes, causing several infections, including septicaemia. This new study found that equivalent to two cans of diet soft drink a concentration, the adhesion of both E. faecalis and E. coli is significantly increased by all three artificial sweeteners to intestinal Caco-2 cells.
In biofilms, the bacteria that grow are less sensitive to antimicrobial resistance treatment and are more likely to express virulence factors and secrete toxins, which are molecules that can cause disease. All three sweeteners make the pathogenic gut bacteria enter Caco-2 cells found in the intestine wall.
Senior author of the paper Dr Havovi Chichger, Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Science at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU), said: “There is a lot of concern about the consumption of artificial sweeteners, with some studies showing that sweeteners can affect the layer of bacteria which support the gut, known as the gut microbiota. Our study is the first to show that some of the sweeteners most commonly found in food and drink — saccharin, sucralose and aspartame — can make normal and ‘healthy’ gut bacteria become pathogenic. These pathogenic changes include the more excellent formation of biofilms and increased adhesion and invasion of bacteria into human gut cells.”
He also shared that these changes could lead to the body’s bacteria invading and causing damage to the intestine, and which cause multiple-organ failure, sepsis, and infection. People also know that excess consumption of sugar leads to obesity and diabetes. Therefore people need to know about sweeteners versus sugars in the diet to understand better the impact on health it causes.